A Team For The Price Of Neymar!
With the English transfer window about to slam shut on Thursday, clubs across the top five leagues in Europe have already spent well in excess of £3.5 BILLION this summer.
Neymar’s transfer fee alone cost PSG more than all the British record transfer fees combined, up to and including Andriy Shevchenko’s move to Chelsea. But there is still some value in the market. Here’s an XI that could have been bought for roughly the same price as Ligue 1’s new Brazilian star.
Goalkeeper – Wojciech Szczesny (£10m)
Hit-and-miss at Arsenal, where he shared the Premier League Golden Gloves with current Gunners keeper Petr Cech in 2013/14, the Pole has impressed on loan at Roma for the past couple of seasons. Despite some mishaps – not least being caught smoking after a hammering against Barcelona – his form has earned him a summer move to Serie A champions Juventus.
While it’s unlikely he’ll usurp Gianluigi Buffon this season, £10m for a decent back-up keeper looks good value in a market that values relative novice Jordan Pickford at £25m.
Left Wing-Back – Ricardo Rodriguez (£13.2m)
Consistently linked with a Premier League move in recent seasons – he’d certainly solve Liverpool’s left-back problem – the Swiss defender became part of AC Milan’s rebuilding project this summer for what looks like a bargain £13.2m.
A dead-ball specialist, Rodriguez has already scored his first Milan goal – in a Europa League tie – before assisting in the second leg.
Central Defenders – Leonardo Bonucci (£35.2m) & Jorge Meré (£7.6m) & Simon Kjaer (£11.6m)
Undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders on the planet, eyebrows were raised at his move from Juve to Milan earlier this summer. He cost about 70% of a John Stones and Premier League clubs such as Chelsea had been willing to break the record transfer fee for a defender for the 30-year-old’s services. However, with six Serie A titles under his belt Bonucci decided to remain in Italy for family reasons following an alleged falling-out with Old Lady boss Massimiliano Allegri.
Linked with Barcelona earlier in the summer, Cologne snapped up the Spanish Under-21 international for just £7.6m – a record fee received by Sporting Gijon.
Meré was a key component in Spain’s run to the final of the recent Under-21 European Championships. Still only 20, he’s already made over 50 La Liga appearances and should appear on the radar of elite European clubs should he continue to impress in Germany.
The much-travelled Danish international Kjaer left Fenerbahce this summer for Sevilla, having spent two seasons in Turkey. Prior to this he’s spent time at Wolfsburg, Lille and a loan spell at Roma and had been linked with a move to Arsenal earlier in the window.
His move comes ten years after a previous move to La Liga – following a successful trial with Real Madrid – was scuppered by FC Midtjylland refusing to sell him.
Right Wing-Back – Andriy Yarmolenko (£23.1m)
Ostensibly a winger or forward, we’ve squeezed the Ukrainian in at right wing-back because a) there’s no doubt he’d do a job there and, b) it doesn’t seem that bizarre when you look at some of Arsene Wenger’s recent positioning decisions.
The 27-year-old was another to join Dortmund this summer, leaving Dynamo Kiev after eleven seasons at the club. During that time, he averaged almost a goal every other game and has similar stats from his 69 international appearances. His form has dipped in recent seasons, but he looks a shrewd capture – and potential replacement for Barcelona-bound Ousmane Dembele.
Central Midfield – Youri Tielemans (£21.6m) & Blaise Matuidi (£18.2m)
Monaco’s close season has been dominated by high-profile departures, so the arrival of Youri Tielemans has snuck under the radar somewhat. Les Monégasques have developed a reputation of adept squad replenishment following big-money sales and the Belgian midfielder could be the latest signing to attract interest from more illustrious suitors a season or two down the line.
Just 20, he’s already won three caps for a star-studded Belgian side and won Belgian Young Footballer of the Year in two consecutive seasons. Last season, he went one better and won Belgian Player of the year before departing for Ligue 1.
With all that money shelled out on Neymar, PSG have had to make space in their squad and balance sheet. Nevertheless, the £18.2m fee Juve paid for Matuidi still seems staggeringly low. Put it this way, the midfielder – capped 58 times for France – cost less than Marco Arnautovic, Nathan Ake and Andre Gray.
The 30-year-old won French Player of the Year just two years ago and won four league titles with PSG before falling out of favour with boss Unai Emery.
Forwards: Kingsley Coman (£18.4m) & Sandro Ramirez (£5.2m) & Federico Bernardeschi (£35.7m)
It’s not all been plain sailing at Juve though, losing Kingsley Coman to Bayern Munich for a similar fee to that of Matuidi. It’s come as no surprise, however, with the fee agreed in 2015 ahead of a two-year loan spell with the Bundesliga giants.
The winger has already won five league titles by the age of 21 and was part of the French squad that finished runners-up at Euro 2016, where he was nominated for Young Player of the Tournament.
Seasoned La Liga observers will argue that Everton got the bargain of the summer, acquiring Sandro Ramirez for just over £5m from Malaga. He’d only joined from Barcelona last summer, signing a three-year contract that included the relatively paltry release fee. He managed to bag 14 goals in 30 La Liga outings for the Boquerones, but has yet to find the net in a competitive fixture for Everton.
Yet another new arrival at Juventus, Bernardeschi impressed last season at Fiorentina where he scored eleven Serie A goals and assisted another four. The last big name to leave Florence for Turin was Roberto Baggio, whom the 23-year-old has been likened to.
He’s already won nine Italian caps and was named in the Team of the Tournament at the Under-21 Euros.
Price of Neymar – £198m
Price of above XI – £199.8m